Thursday, September 6, 2012
A parade to the future
Goochland’s new supervisors seem to have hit their stride as they settle in for the long haul. Following its budget sprint in the first few months of 2012, the board is now working its way through a very long and complicated to-do list.
Although there are many matters that seem to require the supervisors’ attention, they move quickly through their monthly meeting agendas.
Being proactive, the Board approved a parade permit ordinance. Sheriff James L. Agnew asked that the issue be addressed to ensure that large, mobile gatherings have adequate traffic control to keep people safe and minimize disruption for Goochland citizens.
Agnew explained that, because the Goochland Sheriff’s office is a relatively small agency it needs time to respond to request for law enforcement officers at an event. He said that the county needs to have processes and people in place to prevent problems. Regardless of the circumstances of problems, Goochland will be blamed if something goes wrong.
The proposed permit fee was reduced to $25 after discussion. The law enforcement cost is $40 per hour per officer with a three hour minimum, said Agnew. That expense is paid by the sponsoring organization.
In the afternoon portion of the September 4, routine matters were dispatched in fewer than 90 minutes. The board then entered closed session to confer with County Attorney Norman Sales “...regarding specific legal matters requiring the provision of legal advice relating to meetings of the Board of Supervisors, as permitted by Section 2.2-3711(A)(7) of the Code of Virginia.”
Following the closed meeting, the supervisors and other county officials met with Goochland’s delegation to the Virginia General Assembly. As all of these legislators: Senator Tom Garrett and Delegates Lee Ware and Peter Farrell, have represented Goochland only since January 1, this session was a good opportunity for them to learn about challenges facing our county.
Items on the meeting’s agenda included revision of the composite index used by the state to determine the amount of tax dollars returned to Goochland. The method used to compute this index does not reflect the wide income disparity among our citizens.
Let’s hope that our new delegation understands the need for reform. Whenever state Senator Walter Stosch, who formerly represented the eastern portion of Goochland, was asked about the issue his comments often referenced airborne swine.
Other issues scheduled for discussion with legislators included future use of Department of Corrections’ land and VDOT reform.
Except for District 4 supervisor Bob Minnick, this board campaigned together with a common vision for Goochland, something the county has never seen before. Once in office, the new supervisors, including Minnick, set about putting that vision in place.
This board promised to concentrate on a few core issues, including public safety and economic development. Items addressed in the evening session’s public hearing brought the supervisors’ resolve into focus.
They lost no time tackling an issue that the previous regime avoided like the plague — cost recovery for ambulance transport by Goochland EMS personnel.
During budget workshops held in the first few months of the year, the supervisors supported the concept of cost recovery to provide a non-tax dollar revenue stream to fund fire-rescue. On September 4, they voted unanimously to implement the program.
Cost recovery, which bills insurance companies for ambulance transport is an administrative procedure. There will be no change in the way that emergency medical services are delivered in Goochland. The important thing to understand is that NO ONE WILL BE REFUSED EMS CARE. This is a user fee plain and simple. Many jurisdictions in Virginia successfully use this system.
The program will take effect January 1, 2013. Based on information presented during budget workshops, the county expects to realize about $500,000 in revenue in the first year. An outside firm will be retained to handle the billing. The supervisors asked for periodic updates to measure the effectiveness and success of the program.
Cost recovery will allow the county to generate revenue to cover the cost of responding to a large and growing number of EMS calls on Interstate 64 and state route 288. Patients transported from these incidents tend not to live, or pay taxes in Goochland.
The previous board rejected the notion of cost recovery for many years. Sherwood Sackett, president of the Goochland Volunteer Fire-Rescue Association Board of Directors told the board that all of the county’s fire-rescue volunteers support implementation of cost recovery.
As a practical matter, few people will realize, or care, that the change has been made. Citizens give little thought to fire or EMS until they have an emergency. Then, they want an ambulance or fire truck at their door as fast as possible. Currently, fire-rescue is funded by a combination of tax dollars and citizen contributions to the county’s six fire-rescue companies. Paid responders have augmented the volunteer corps for several years.
Cost recovery will also help to ease the way as Goochland moves inevitably toward a fully career provider system. Delivery of EMS is physically, intellectually and often emotionally demanding. Our county is blessed with a dedicated corps of extraordinary individuals who give huge of amounts of their time and talents in the most vital of community services. Their numbers are dwindling and few new residents have the time or inclination to join their ranks.
Earlier in the evening, a conditional use permit extension granted to Markel Properties and the Richmond Strikers Soccer Club for a soccer complex in West Creek morphed into an economic development initiative.
The initial CUP was grudgingly granted five years ago in spite of citizen complaints about the county accommodation of a Richmond soccer club while Goochland kids were forced to play soccer on barely adequate fields built over an old landfill.
In the interim, the county has acquired land for soccer fields and the Strikers have built an impressive eight field soccer complex in West Creek, on 38.7 acres of the old Motorola site, which includes extensive parking lots. A restroom facility uses, and pays for, TCSD water and sewer. Dire predictions that Goochland EMS would be overwhelmed by the complex never materialized. In fact, Strikers provides its own EMS coverage for events.
The Strikers simply requested an extension of the original CUP, which includes a prohibition on lighting. The board, realizing the economic impact of the thousands of people who visit the site annually for tournaments, amended the application to increase the number of tournaments allowed from six to a maximum of 12 per year.
According to Striker official Scott Turner, its events are the largest driver of hotel occupancy in the Richmond region, more than NASCAR. While there are currently no hotels in Goochland, Turner said that Striker events will fill any future hotels. That would mean full occupancy for 12 weekends per year.
He also said that the Strikers would work with the county to promote restaurants and other businesses in Goochland to tournament attendees who tend to head to Short Pump. Reportedly, Wawa has asked the Strikers for advance notice of tournaments so that it can be adequately stocked to handle tournament driven demand for items like bottled water.
Turner explained that, although extensive discussions about sharing Striker fields with GUSA were held, little happened. He did report that other community groups have used the facility for other purposes.
Marshall Bowden, chair of the Goochland Economic Development Authority spoke in support of the CUP and the increase in tournament days. He urged the board to consider dark sly compliant lighting because “there will be lights in West Creek.”
Jonathan Lyle, a Director of the Monacan Soil and Water District pointed out that sports tourism is a growth area in the region and an excellent opportunity for economic development.
The supervisors also asked staff to investigate the possibility of permitting the Striker fields to be lit, following dark sky protocols, to increase its use. County administrator Rebecca T. Dickson said that lighting prohibition for private school athletic fields could be a factor in this matter.
Staff will also pursue additional signage with VDOT to help tournament attendees find the place. Perhaps a numbered street address that could be plugged into a GPS would help there.